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Scousers can share WWII stories and mementoes to feature in huge online archive

2 months ago

Scousers can share WWII stories and mementoes to feature in huge online archive
Credit: Their Finest Hour

Anyone with stories and mementoes from WWII can go along to Central Library this weekend and have them included in a huge national online archive.

The event, taking place on Saturday March 2, is for a project called Their Finest Hour, which aims to create a digital record of even the smallest anecdote or object to save them being lost over time.

The idea is to preserve memories that have been passed down from parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Their Finest Hour is being led by Drs Matthew Kidd and Stuart Lee who have been travelling across the country holding digital collection days.

Liverpool’s event this Saturday will be their 73rd and final one before they bring everything together and hopefully launch the website archive in early June.

Credit: Their Finest Hour
Credit: Their Finest Hour

And Matthew says they’re hoping the city’s wartime history will make it a big finale.

He explains: “We didn’t have the resources to go out and interview everyone in their homes so we thought we’d do a kind of Antiques Roadshow style project where we encourage people to come along, bring with them the stories of their families and also any objects they have, so for instance war medals, diaries, letters, leaflets, ration books.

“All these kinds of things may be sitting around in their loft, their cupboards, their drawers – they aren’t things you see in museums, these are things kept in people’s homes. 

“Like the stories, they’re at risk of being lost if people move house, unfortunately die and no-one’s there to take them on, or they get thrown away because people think nobody will be interested in them.

“We photograph the objects and take notes and once we’ve collected as many as we can we’ll put them in an online archive which people can then access without having to go to a museum or an archive. 

“They can just go on the internet and search for their own story and other ones like it.”

In addition to collecting archive material in person, Their Finest Hour has also been gathering it via the website where people can upload it themselves – so far, in the year since the project began, they’ve already had nearly 2000 separate stories and around 15,000 photos submitted. 

The team, travelling up from Oxford University, will be joined by volunteers at Central Library, armed with cameras and ready to listen to all recollections.

Credit: Their Finest Hour
Credit: Their Finest Hour

And, Matthew stresses, every story matters – there’s no such thing as one that’s too mundane to be included.

“When we started the project we were getting things like ‘my great grandfather escaped from a prisoner of war camp’ and that was great obviously but a lot of people I spoke to said, my grandad only worked in a factory, or my nan just looked after the kids.

“They thought we might not be interested in things like that, so very early on we made it clear that even if you only have a small anecdote or you don’t really know anything about what your grandad did, that’s fine, we still want to hear it.

“Having all of those stories means you get to see the full diversity of the wartime experience – for some it was scary, for some it was exciting, for some it was boring; we want our archive to show all of that.  

“You don’t need to know a lot about the objects you’ve got either. It could be something you’ve been given by a grandparent and you have no idea what it is. One of the good things about having an online archive is other people might know more, and get in touch with us wanting to share that information.”

Once the Their Finest Hour archive is live, it will be free to use, there’ll be no subscription or need to register.

“It will literally be a case of clicking on the website and searching for what you want to see so for instance you’ll be able to type in Liverpool and see every single thing we’ve received about or from Liverpool. 

“We’re trying to make it as open and accessible as possible because it’s ordinary people who’ve made this project happen.”

The Their Finest Hour digital collection event is at Central Library ground floor on Saturday March 2 between 11am and 4pm. There’s no need to book, just turn up with whatever memories you’d like recording.

For more info on Their Finest Hour click here. For the latest news in Liverpool click here.



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